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Google To Pay Massachusetts $327K in Settlement

The Internet company agreed to a $7 million multi-state settlement over the unauthorized collection of personal data by its Street View vehicles.

Massachusetts will receive more than $327,000 in retribution as part of a $7 million lawsuit with Google over the company’s unauthorized collection of data during its Street View photography sessions, Attorney General Martha Coakley announced Tuesday.

Thirty-eight states and the District of Columbia participated in the suit and the resulting $7 million settlement, according to a press release from Coakley’s office.

The lawsuit claimed that while photographing areas for the Google Street View service, Google vehicles collected network identification information sent over unsecured wireless networks as well as “payload data” that was transmitted over the networks while the vehicles were in the area—including the URLs of requested Web pages, email messages and other private information.

In the settlement, Google officials admitted that while they were unaware this collection was occurring the Street View vehicles did use software and equipment that could collect this type of information without the user's consent, according to Coakley’s office.

“This hard-fought settlement recognizes and protects the privacy rights of people whose information was collected without their permission,” Coakley said. “Google will now strengthen its privacy protocols and further educate consumers about securing their personal information while online.”

As part of the settlement, Google has agreed to stop the collection of payload data by disabling or removing equipment from its Street View vehicles, and the company agreed not to collect additional data without notifying consumers and receiving their consent.

“The information collected was segregated and secured, and under terms of the agreement, will be destroyed as soon as legally practicable,” the press release states. “Further, Google has agreed that the payload data was not used, and will not be used, in any product or service, and that the information collected in the United States was not disclosed to a third party.”

Also as part of the settlement, the company has agreed to run a training program to educate employees on the subject of user privacy. The company also agreed to launch an advertising campaign educating consumers about how they may better secure their personal information while using wireless networks.

Coakley’s office served on an executive committee that negotiated the settlement with Google, along with attorneys general from Connecticut, Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri and Texas, according to the release.

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